The bitterly cold March weather kept shoppers off the high street with like-for-like sales for the month dipping by 0.9% year-on-year, as fashion was particularly hard hit.

Fashion sales dropped by 3.4% year-on-year as consumers shunned unsuitable spring lines in the face of sub-zero temperatures, according to high street data from accountancy firm BDO.

With the poor weather expected to continue further into April, retailers fear that they will be forced to clear spring stock by discounting, which will hit even those that have managed to maintain tight stock control.

Don Williams, national head of retail and wholesale at BDO, said: “Retailers that failed to adjust stock levels and the supply chain accordingly were already on the back foot when the mercury dropped and will now have to work extra hard to catch better prepared rivals.”

Mother’s Day gift sales provided a rare bright spot driving a 7.3% rise in non-fashion like-for-like sales, according to high street data for March from accountancy firm BDO. Outdoor retailers, such as Blacks and Snow + Rock, have benefited from the cold weather and homewares, notably kitchenware, also got a boost from gifting with a 2.2% rise.